Students at University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC) are working hard to ensure their peers can afford an education through the Hispanic Development Fund (HDF).
Cambio para Cambio, or Change for Change, is a fundraiser organized by the Latinx Student Union at UMKC to support the annual scholarships.
Latinx Student Union President Daisy Garcia Montoya (who you may recognize as the Northeast News’ 2020 summer intern) stopped by to fill us in on their fundraising efforts.
The Latinx Student Union decided to support scholarships for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students at UMKC.
“It’s really difficult here in Missouri for them to get any type of financial aid,” Garcia Montoya said. “A lot of them, they go to school and then they have to take a semester off to work and save up. They’re paying tuition as an international student regardless if they’ve been living here in the state forever.”
The student organization has raised the most money for the funds from any group two years in a row. HDF and UMKC have a partnership where they will both match funds raised, so donations made through the Latinx Student Union go three times as far.
The Latinx Student Union’s fundraising goal this year is $3,500. They usually set a higher goal, but COVID-19 has left a lot of people financially unstable and has cancelled some of the events they usually participate in to gather donations.
“I think it’s definitely realistic, but I really want to exceed it,” Garcia Montoya said of their goal. “This year we’ve actually had to plan events more than just show up.”
Garcia Montoya said more than anything, she is grateful to their donors and asks that people keep contributing.
“Obviously, we would like to win, but at the end of the day, it’s not about us winning or anything, it’s just about us raising money for a cause that I think that everybody should care about, not just Latinx, not just Hispanics, everybody,” Garcia Montoya said. “They’re just trying to get an education, and there’s barriers put in place to lessen those chances, and nobody should be paying internationally when they’ve been living in the state always.”
Garcia Montoya said tuition costs have not gone down at UMKC, neither have parking nor student fees. While some classes are online, others remain hybrid or in person.
The Hispanic Development Fund (HDF), which was founded in 1984, is a local program that awards between 300 and 400 scholarships per year to Kansas City students pursuing higher education in the region. The fundraiser takes place each year during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
In 2020, HDF awarded $689,000 in scholarships to 325 students, one of which was Garcia Montoya. She’s applied for and been a recipient of the scholarship for every year of her college career.
“For me, it made it easier because I was able to just use that money toward my college books,” Garcia Montoya said. “I would actually look forward to it each year because HDF does an awards ceremony and your family is welcome to go, so I would either take my mom or dad.”
Overall, Latinx culture is very family-oriented and parents look for ways to help their students, but often don’t know how, Garcia Montoya said.
Garcia Montoya said HDF makes her family feel very welcome. HDF hosts family nights and bilingual college tours to help families prepare their first generation college students for higher education.
Former recipient of the scholarship Randy Lopez went on to become the first Latino elected to the Board of Education for Kansas City, Kan. Public Schools, of which he is now the president.
“The HDF Scholarship was so huge for me; to know that I had the support of my community that they would believe in me and invest in my future was such a great feeling,” Lopez said. “To know that I belonged to a group of scholars and the HDF family meant so much to me; let alone the financial support. It was a blessing for me and my family and I was so grateful for the support.”
After graduation, he went on to earn his master’s degree in public administration, serve on the HDF Board of Directors and as the Vice President of Community Programs for the Wyandotte Health Foundation. He said one of his greatest accomplishments is being able to give back to his community both financially and through volunteer service.
“HDF has been such a pillar in the KC Metro area for over 35 years and has been a place of hope for our families,” Lopez said. “When a student feels that support of our community whether it’s via the scholarship or through other programmatic supports provided, our students feel a sense of hope, belonging, importance and value. HDF encourages our students and makes us believe that we can accomplish the dreams that we have.”
Eligible students have attended and graduated from a Greater Kansas City metropolitan area high school or obtained a general equivalency diploma (GED) from a local organization. They must be accepted or enrolled in a fully accredited college or university and be working toward an associate, bachelor or graduate degree full-time.
Scholarships are evaluated based on proven academic merit, demonstrated need for financial assistance, and demonstrated community involvement.
“There are so many barriers to a quality education, so for HDF to be able to provide resources to families and especially first generation college students is huge,” Lopez said. “We are removing some of those barriers and walking with families to get the education that they want and deserve.
The fundraiser has been a group effort, Garcia Montoya said, from the organization’s executive board, which includes Leidy Venegas, Dalila Herosillo, Jennifer Rangel, Elisa Rouse and Lauren Orozco, to their professors and university staff, and the community members that have contributed their time and effort to the cause.
The Latinx Student Union provides a community on campus that Garcia Montoya describes as a “home away from home” for Latinx students. They meet in the Multicultural Student Affairs Office, a dedicated space for multicultural organizations on campus.
“We do a lot of social events just for people to like make friendships within the general body members,” Daisy said. “We also do professional development where we’ll do networking or bring in a Latinx professional in the area. They’ll talk about their field, how they felt about being Latinx, stuff like that.”
The group also has academic workshops for upcoming midterm or final exams called Ponte las Pilas, which translates literally to “put on your batteries,” but Garcia Montoya explained it as the equivalent of the English saying “get it together.”
Cultural events are very important to the Latinx Student Union, like hosting guest speakers and Latino Chats, during which they discuss different aspects of their identity like Afro-Latinidad, LGBTQIA+ in the Latinx culture, machismo, and other common themes.
“It’s welcome for everybody because we also feel like some people may have questions and maybe that’s a perfect way for them to learn and for it to be fun,” Garcia Montoya said. “It’s a good way for other people to celebrate our culture.”
Those who wish to support the UMKC Latinx Student Union’s fundraising efforts can donate at hdfkc.networkforgood.com.